Every time we Google something or buy a pair of shoes online, we’re creating valuable data. And people who know how to analyze that data are highly employable right now. As computing enters every part of life, high school teachers are beginning to see it as their duty to prepare students for this changing world.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has teamed up with UCLA to develop an introduction to data science course that meets University of California and California State University application requirements. Students use a blend of statistics and computer science to analyze data sets they’ve either collected or found.
“They’re learning how to think critically with data,” said Suyen Machado, who helped write the course curriculum and coordinates the program that has spread to 30 schools in six districts.
In one project, students look at 15,000 data points from a Centers for Disease Control survey on teen health. The survey asked teens about bullying, how much soda they drink and whether they wear seat belts. Data science students look for patterns in the data and try to draw conclusions from what they find there.
They ask questions about the data, analyze it and interpret it. If their initial question isn’t answered, or they have new ones, they return to the data and ask a new set of questions. The class discusses the ethical implication of data collection, how surveys can be skewed and how different visualizations tell particular stories. Teachers say engagement with the course is much higher than more traditionally taught math classes because it feels relevant to students.